There may be a threatening quid pro quo on the horizon for Israel, namely that the truly consequential armaments it needs to defend itself will be withheld unless Israel concedes to a Palestinian state.
There has been an unexamined consensus in Congress that Israel will automatically be given a dramatic increase in both the quantity and quality of military aid to make up for the dangers the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has created for it. Those dangers include a strengthened Hamas and Hezbollah, the increasing presence of more dangerous conventional missiles and the looming threat of an Iranian nuclear-tipped missile directed toward the Jewish state.
There is no doubt more aid is forthcoming, if for no other reason than to give cover to Democratic members of Congress who will vote with the president on the deal, but will soon be seeking campaign donations from concerned pro-Israel political donors.
But what is not appreciated is that there will likely be a huge price Israel will be asked to pay to receive what it needs to survive.
Pundits following the Iran deal have misunderstood what the deal is really about. Almost everyone has been focused on the nuclear weapons aspect of the deal, but that is not primarily what this agreement (JCPOA) is all about. If it were, we would have negotiated a much better deal.
This deal is just the first step in President Barack Obama’s vision for creating a new Middle East. It began with Iranian rapprochement, but it will not end until a Palestinian state is created, a passionately held desire of the president, his advisors and his progressive supporters. The president and his allies, for example J Street, still believe that the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is the Middle East’s primary problem. Israel to them is the linchpin, and Israel remains to its critics the intransigent and immoral party in the dispute.
There is little doubt that resolving the conflict in some way that secures Israel would have positive consequences.
But to focus attention here is to miss the point that almost all of the problems of the Middle East, from Islamic State (IS) to the Sunni- Shi’ite divide, have nothing to do with Israel, except for Israel’s role as a convenient scapegoat.
For all of the administration’s condemnations of the Bush administration agenda – trying to bring democracy to the region with American hubris and exceptionalism – this president’s plan is in actuality much more ambitious: to transform the region with an American progressive footprint. The more the president protests that this deal is just about nuclear weapons, the less you should believe it. You just have to look at the dramatic concessions made on conventional and ballistic missiles.
The Iran deal is less about nuclear weapons and more about strengthening Shi’ite Iran as a counterweight to balance the power of the Sunni Gulf states before moving on to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the same progressive footprint. If the president thinks his pivot to Iran reassures the other regional players, he is dangerously mistaken. The half a trillion dollars in money freed up with sanctions relief over the next five years will ignite the Sunni-Shi’ite world, not quiet it. American aid to the Sunni world in turn is simply kerosene being thrown in the Sunni-Shi’ite fire, with American soldiers likely to end up being killed as a result. The president’s wishful thinking is that Iran will work with the US against IS, help resolve the genocidal Syrian civil war, and with billions in economic relief choose butter over guns to revitalize its domestic economy, rather than beef up its military and that of its proxies. Good luck with that.
To the president, this deal is not so much about nuclear weapons. It’s about the president’s outreach to the Muslim people as articulated in both his Cairo speech of 2009 and in other statements.
So after Congress fails to override the president’s veto, he will turn to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is directly related to the Iran deal as part of an overall strategic vision.
It will next be about pressuring Israel to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, which until the Obama administration was the Palestinian starting point for negotiations.
The Israeli view is secure and defensible borders. The American stick to Israel will be the threat to abstain from vetoing an expected French proposal in the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state. The carrot is the advanced military aid Israel needs in response to the concessions the JCPOA created.
For the real consequential military “goodies” that Israel needs, there will be a quid pro quo: bend to our vision of resolving the conflict or pay the price.
The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™), and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisors, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.